Celtics

Irving, C's finish strong to top Warriors

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Irving, C's finish strong to top Warriors

BOSTON – This was the moment Boston Celtics fans had been waiting for. 

Tight ball game, a few ticks left on the clock against the best team in the land, and the game’s outcome in the hands of Kyrie Irving. 

He came to Boston to write a new narrative in what has been a phenomenal career already. 

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

And did he ever deliver, scoring seven of Boston's last nine points as Boston pulled off their biggest win of the season, 92-88 over Golden State. 

Boston (14-2) extended their league-best winning streak to 14 in a row which will surely prompt some to see the Celtics as more than just a team off to a fast start but a team that could do the seemingly unthinkable at the start of the season - knock off the Warriors.

Kevin Durant had a chance to tie the game up but missed a baseline jumper that was rebounded by Al Horford. 

Horford, who had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, passed the ball up court to Jayson Tatum who was immediately fouled. 

He made both free throws with 6.7 seconds to play to secure the victory. 

Slowing down the high-powered Golden State offense (they came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game)  was among the many challenges the Celtics had to contend with Thursday night. 

Brad Stevens has seen Golden State bury teams in no time, and was determined to not see his crew suffer a similar fate, which is why he called a time-out early in the first after the Warriors took a 9-6 lead after Klay Thompson drained a wide open 3-pointer. 

Golden State soon began to put some separation between itself and the Celtics doing what they’ve done to most teams this season which is dominate play at both ends of the floor. 

Boston struggled to contain Golden State’s shooters while at the same time not capitalizing on the few opportunities to make the Warriors pay for the few mistakes they made defensively. 

It didn’t take long before this battle between the league’s best teams, started to show signs of a potential Golden State blowout with their lead peaking at 45-29 in the second quarter. 

But Boston responded with an 11-2 run sparked by strong play defensively and some timely shot-making by Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics continued to surge ahead and were well within striking distance as the half ended with Boston behind 47-42.

Brown finished with a team-high 22 points.

Boston appeared to have made it a one-possession game after an Irving driving lay-up was waived off due to basket interference.

Golden State once again pulled away early in the third quarter, seemingly on the verge of once again putting the Celtics in a major hole. 

And just like we saw in the first half, the Celtics scratched and clawed their way back into the game with Jaylen Brown leading the charge. 

Trailing 66-51, Boston closed out the third quarter with a 17-2 run with Brown scoring eight straight and a total of 10 points during the Celtics spurt.

After forcing a miss with 4.1 seconds to play, Stevens called a time-out in order to give his team a shot at going into the fourth with the lead. 

Terry Rozier got the in-bounds pass and dribbled up court before launching a deep 3-pointer that hit the side of the rim as time expired.

That was one of the few plays that didn't work for the Celtics down the stretch in a game that serves as the biggest win of the season and certainly one of the biggest for Stevens during his four-plus seasons here in Boston. 

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

LOS ANGELES – Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time all-star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and coach (Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.

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